Healthcare Economy

Americans Think Doctor Visits Substantial Raise COVID-19 Risk

For most Americans, a checkup from a doctor, help from a physician when they get sick or special treatment for serious illness are part of the fabric of health care in the United States. Now, many people worry that the visit to a doctor increases their risk of exposure to COVID-19. This could change the practice of medicine substantially.

According to a new poll from Gallup, over 80% of people worry that a doctor’s visit could expose them to infection. Specifically, the report shows: “When asked how they would feel if they needed medical treatment, 42% of U.S. adults interviewed last week said they would be ‘very concerned’ about being exposed to the novel coronavirus at a doctor’s office or hospital, and another 41% said they would be ‘moderately concerned.'” Only a tiny 4 percent said they were “not concerned at all.” Thirteen percent said they were “not too concerned.” The research covers both private doctors and those who work in hospitals.

The numbers worsen when people are asked about visits to specialists. Those with immune problems or kidney disease were especially concerned. Those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension/high blood pressure and cancer also ranked high among those who are worried.

Another factor is the difference between men and women. Seventy-eight percent of men were concerned about COVID-19 exposure because of a doctor visit. Among women, the figure was 88%. There is also a difference based on education. Eighty-nine percent of college graduates were concerned. The figure was 81% among those with less than a college degree.

There was also a difference based on where people live. Eighty-six percent of city dwellers were concerned. The figure was the same among people from the suburbs. For people who live in rural areas, the number only came to 80%.

The data shows how COVID-19 could have an effect on the way doctors practice and whether their incomes will fall. Doctors have become much more likely to see patients via telemedicine. Many insurance companies do not reimburse as much for patient payments compared to when a patient is examined directly. And many doctors cannot see patients at all. They have shuttered their offices because of the risk to patients, as well as the risk the physicians can become infected and then infect family and friends.

It is impossible to tell when people will find it is safe to go back to a doctor. As more and more Americans are infected, visits are unlikely to increase soon.


Americans’ Concern About Exposure to COVID-19 at Doctor’s Office or Hospital

If you needed medical treatment right now, how concerned would you be about being exposed to coronavirus at a doctor’s office or hospital?

U.S. adults
Very concerned 42%
Moderately concerned 41%
Not too concerned 13%
Not concerned at all 4%

GALLUP PANEL, MARCH 28-APRIL 2, 2020